Saturday, December 27, 2014

Getting Lost is a Perk of Hiking

Approx 7:45 a.m. Sun rising over
the I- 95 bridge
Sometime the purpose of a hike is to get lost. But today, I think it's the trail that got lost not me.

Today I went to Susquehanna State Park in Maryland. It's about an hour drive south on 95. It sounds
far because it's in another state but the drive was only a few minutes more than driving out to French Creek SP in PA. I wanted to visit this park after seeing Destrie, an MLC trail runner, posting about it. Great views and lots of climbing. I need the climbing to get ready for super hike and great views are always a plus.

I studied the park maps online but did not have one with me. I saw that the red blazed ridge trail had a trailhead at the boat launch on Lapidurm Road and I headed there to start. I couldn't find the trail at first. I started down an abandoned railroad but when that became too overgrown to pass through I turned around. I was just about to give up and drive to another spot when I noticed a rocky ledge with signpost near it. I walked over to look at it and that's when I saw the trail marker.

As soon as I was on the trail I could see why Destrie likes the ridge trail so much. It is a narrow tree lined trail that climbs and descends repeatedly opening up at times to provide awesome views of the river. There quite a few views through the trees but those will disappear in Spring and Summer. I look forward to seeing the trail then, too.

A short way in I came to the junction with the white blazed Land of Promise Trail. I made a mental note of where I was. My plan was to follow the ridge trail to the northern end of the park at the Deer Creek picnic area then follow the Farm Road Trail back to the grist mill and then the Land of Promise Trail back to this spot. That was the plan, anyway.

The ridge trail descended to the road just before the grist mill. I discovered a historic walking trail and decided to take that. I figured it probably went around the Rock Run Historic Area and would bring me back to the street eventually. It did and on the way I got a nice tour of the area. I also found the connection to the Land of Promise Trail which I would need to know for later.

Back at the street and the mill I tried to resume my hike on the ridge trail. I found the red blazes on two trees along the road and then - poof - they disappeared. I went back and forth a couple of times but found no marker indicating a turn. I followed the road for a bit knowing that I really wanted to be up there...
In real life it was steeper
than it looks here. The photo begins
partway up the hill
I toyed briefly with the idea of climbing up that hillside to find the trail. I decided against it for two reasons. #1 If I got up there and the trail wasn't there I'd have to come back down. In my head, coming down is harder than going up. I am afraid of falling. In fact, reason #1a would be that I could get part way up and if I stopped and looked down I'd freeze and have to be rescued by the fire department or something like that. And reason #2 for not climbing up was that although there did appear to be sufficient rocks, roots and trees to keep me moving and supported in an upward direction, if I was wrong and fell down the hill I would land on a somewhat busy street with a blind curve right there.

So instead I followed the Mason Dixon Trail which was now following the river. This meant much more flatland than I had anticipated but it was better than no hike at all. I figured I'd follow this for a couple of miles and if I didn't find the Deer Creek picnic area I would simply turn around and retrace my steps back to the car. A few miles later I came to a trail and bridge that went across a creek away from the Mason Dixon Trail. No signage except for a Susquehanna Heritage Trail sign similar to the ones I had seen back at the Grist Mill town. I have to admit that I pulled up the GPS on my phone here to see if I could tell where the Deer Creek picnic area was. It looked like this spur trail went in the general direction of the picnic area so I decided to try it.
Deer Creek
I came to a road with a directional sign for the picnic area. Just off the road was a dirt trail (better than road any day). I decided to follow it figuring that if it strayed from following the road I'd hop back down to the road. Just as the trail started to veer off from the road I was met by a couple and their dog. They informed me that yes this trail led to the picnic area. Not in a straight line but I did get there.

I found a map kiosk and determined where the trails back to the Grist Mill went off. I found the junction of the Farm Road Trail and the Ridge Trail. I decided to go back on the Ridge Trail so I could find out where it meets up with the Grist Mill village. Well,it turns out the Ridge Trail follows a road to the left just past the Mill for a short distance and then descends to cross the creek and head back up to the ridge. When I got to the road I looked again....and there is no clear indication of that in terms of trail blazes. I suppose if I had a park trail map I might have found it but I didn't.

I passed on the creek crossing here. I got half way across and realized I was going to end up IN the creek no matter what and I just wasn't in the mood for it. I had a towel and dry socks in my pack but still opted to cut off on a trail that others had blazed back out to the street and cross the creek on the bridge. Wimpy perhaps but that water was going to be very cold.

Also, as I approached the village I stopped to look down at the road where I had contemplated climbing up. Now that I knew for certain the trail was at the top, I think I could have made it. But it was a smart move to skip that adventure without that knowledge.

I found the Land of Promise trail and followed it around to the ridge trail and back to my car. The ridge trail has great views but I think the Land of Promise trail had more climbing. I'll look at my Garmin info more closely later to see of that's true or if it just felt that way because I was nearing the end of a 4 hour hike.

I had a great time today. I recommend a visit to this area. If you don't want to climb there is plenty of trail along the river instead. Long post today. Thanks for staying with me.

Keep smiling and keep moving,

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